Retirement What Now?

In an article from the Association of Mature American Citizens Magazine AMAC Advantage, titled retirement in the 21st century, the new cycle of retirement by John D. Caffrey, CFP writes that our life has changed and the way we view retirement has also changed. “Life expectancy at the turn of the 20th century was a mere 47 years. Today, the average American can look forward to about 78 years of life. What’s causing this trend? Some reasons are obvious, such as improved health care, medical advances, and healthier life styles. People are taking better care of themselves. They’re giving up smoking, learning to eat right and exercising regularly. Inevitably, these trends lead to healthier, longer, more productive lives. The result is a new way of thinking about age. The period between ages 45 and 65 is no longer thought of as middle and old age, but instead a second adulthood. Next comes late adulthood (60 to 80), followed by old age, (80 to 100), and very old age (100+).” What does this mean to us? First recommendation would be we join “The Association of Mature American Citizens” to gain valuable information, to help us be better prepared for our mature years. Second we are going to walk through some of those aspects of life to help ease the adjustment into retirement.

We look forward to retirement our entire careers and try to be prepared, but many factors contribute to our success of failure. One of the most important factors that are frequently overlooked is the behavioral health aspect of retirement. Retirement is rated by social scientist as a nine (9) on the stress scale of 1 to 10. It is considered extremely stressful, even though it is something we all desire. We identify ourselves by our careers, and this is even more an identity issue for those in law enforcement. We identify ourselves and our identified by others as police officers and sheriffs.

This causes many issues to arise when we make that transition. The deferred retirement option plan has given us four years to prepare. It has given us time to help make adjustment. We offer the following suggestions to assist with the transition.
The first six months on retirement is referred to as the Treasure Island Syndrome; research shows the first six months of retirement is a very happy time. This is similar to the “honeymoon stage” of marriage; there is a novelty to it, newness. We can use this stage more effectively by setting the standards we will deploy during retirement, such as setting aside a daily block of time to do physical, mental, and spiritual exercise to be the best that we can be, to thrive. Our goal should be to get the most out of our retirement. I know what you are thinking it is easier said than done. This is a golden opportunity, we have the time, the desire, and if not now when. We offer the following to help start your journey on a long, happy, healthy and blessed retirement.

Dr. Trisha Macnair M.D. and Dr. Olga Calof in The Long Life Equation report on research which concludes exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, and generally keeps death at bay. One study concluded daily exercise, such as a brisk hour long walk, halves the risk of stroke. Getting and staying active can add quality years to our life. We should find activities that we enjoy doing such as walking, biking, working out. If we find activities we enjoy doing than we are more likely to continue them. Research shows that one hour of brisk exercise is best, and can add years to our life, but a benefit is gained from any amount of good exercise. If you think it is to late a Harvard University study concluded that people over 75 who quit smoking and started exercising could add two years to their lives.

Research has shown that keeping our mind active can add years to our life and quality to our years. The researchers contend that we should “keep stretching our mind as learning forces the brain to grow new connections between the nerve cells a direct antidote to aging.”

A study conducted by Rush University Medical Center Chicago concluded “those who said that they spent time on activities including significant information processing (such as listening to the radio, reading, going to museums, doing crosswords, or solving puzzle games) had nearly half the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as those who did not.”A classic example of this is a story Associate Supreme Court Justice Olive Wendell Holmes, who was still serving at age 90. One morning his clerk arrived at the chambers at 6:00 A.M. and found Justice Holmes in deep study, the clerk asked what he was doing. Justice Holmes responded I am expanding my mind by studying Greek. Holmes was the oldest justice in the history of the Supreme Court, serving to the age of 90 years and 309 days. Justice Holmes remained active until his death at age 93. Oscar Hammerstein was 64 years old when he wrote the Sound of Music. Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister at age 65 during World War 2. Michael Angelo was 72 years old when he designed the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Nelson Mandela was 75 years when he was elected President of South Africa. Benjamin Franklin was 79 years old when he invented bi focal. Frank Lloyd Wright was 91 years old when he finished his work on the Guggenheim Museum. Bernice Gordon was still writing crossword puzzles at her death at age of 101.

I have witness this phenomenon first hand, my father Anthony Campione was a heavily decorated WW 2 veteran serving in the 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army achieving the rank of Master Sergeant. He lived the mission of the 1st Infantry Division No Mission to Difficult, No Sacrifice Too Great, Duty First, every day of his life. He volunteered his time in service to his church, family, and country until two weeks prior to his death at age 95 years and 49 days. All of this evidence supports the conclusion staying active; stretching the mind is a direct antidote to aging. Need more evidence, a December 29th 2013 parade magazine article featured Olga Kotelko, “A retired school teacher from West Vancouver, Canada, who can be the poster child for late bloomers.” At age 77, she entered her first “masters” track and field competition, for participants age 35 and over. At age 85 she knocked off nearly 20 world records in a single year. Today she is the only woman in the world over 90 still long-jumping competitively.

“We think longevity is probably about 70 to 75 percent lifestyle, says Angela Brooks Wilson, Ph.D., a geneticist in the Genome Sciences Center at the B.C. Cancer Agency in Vancouver. That means just a quarter of healthy aging is about the protection you inherited, and up to three-quarters are determined by how you play the hand you were dealt.”

The third area that we must work at is the spiritual. More than two thousand studies concluded people of faith live longer, are happier, healthier, and have better relationships. Research has shown a strong spiritual life could add as much as seven quality years to life. Spiritual exercise consists of attending Church service, prayer, reading the Bible, religious literature, and meditation. Bibles are available in daily reading versions offering 365 segments in twenty minutes sessions. Adding daily prayer and weekly services help develop the spiritual muscle to deal with stress. Being part of a spiritual community i.e. membership in a Synagogue or Church or Mosque helps provide additional support in times of crisis from God and fellow believers.

Drs. Macnair and Calof in The Long Life Equation describe it this way, a powerful link was found between faith and longevity. A 12 year study at the University of Iowa, for example found that those who attended religious service at least once a week were 35 percent more likely to live longer than those who never attended a church or other faith based events. Being actively involved in a spiritual community boosts the immune system and helps to keep high blood pressure and clogged arteries at bay. It is associated with lower levels of diseases such as atherosclerosis. Another study found that the divorce rate for general populations is one out of two, that is for every two marriages one will end in divorce. For those of faith (those couples who pray together each day and attend weekly religious service) the divorce rate is 1 out of 1052. Great odds and you get the benefit of a good marriage and family.

Matthew Kelly in his book Resisting Happiness reported on a study of hospice nurses asked what they’re dying patients reflected on, these were the responses. “I wish I’d had the courage to be myself. I wish I had spent more time with the people I love. I wish I had made spirituality more of a priority. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time working. I wish I had discovered my purpose earlier. I wish I had discovered my purpose earlier. I wish I had learned to express my feelings more. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about things that never happened. I wish I had taken more risks. I wish I had cared less about what other people thought. I wish I had realized earlier that happiness is a choice. I wish I had loved more. I wish I had taken better care of myself. I wish I had been a better spouse. I wish I had paid less attention to other people’s expectations. I wish I had quit my job and found something I really enjoyed doing. I wish I had stayed in touch with old friends. I wish I had spoken my mind more. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time chasing the wrong things. I wish I’d had more children. I wish I had touched more lives. I wish I had thought about life’s big questions earlier. I wish I had traveled more. I wish I had lived more in the moment. I wish I had pursued more of my dreams. These are the regrets of dying people, people who were out of time. Each of them contains a powerful lesson for those of us who are still living.”

Still not convinced, In Rethink How You Think by Dr. David Stoop writes of a “counter-clock wise study” conducted BY Ellen Langer. A group of seventy five year old men participated in an experiment “designed to turn the mind back twenty years for seven days. And when the week was over, all the same tests were run again; the researchers found that the men’s memory and eyesight improved by 10 percent. Many of their IQ scores were higher. There were also improvements in most other tests. Even their arthritic fingers straightened and lengthened. How did these changes take place? It was the change in thinking, proving that our biology is not our destiny. Langer noted it is the change in thinking, proving that our biology is not our destiny. Langer noted, it is not primarily our physical selves that limit us, but rather our mind set about our physical limits.”

We have the ability to thrive if we allow ourselves to pursue being the best person we can be and that is a mind set to work hard every day on our physical, mental and spiritual health. Retirement means we must continue to work to be the best that we can be and in turn we enjoy the best quality of life.

In conclusion, John D. Caffrey from The Association of Mature American Citizens writes “The effect that longer, healthier lives may have on the traditional life cycle of education, work, and retirement. It will be replaced by short term retirement, followed by any combination of career shift, part or flex time work, entrepreneurial endeavors, and continuing education interspersed with occasional “mini retirement.”

If you wish to contact Association of Mature American Citizens the website is WWW AMAC.U.S. OR CALL 1-888-262-2006